April 2, 2021

Economic opportunity improves health in our communities

In 2020, Kaiser Permanente awarded more than $100 million in grants to community-based organizations across the country.

Two women visit Dig Deep Farms before beginning their internships.

In December 2020, 7 women had the opportunity to gain work experience and literally get their hands dirty through an internship at an urban farm. Dig Deep Farms in Alameda County, California, provided hands-on job training in the food economy, and taught the women how to plant, fertilize, and harvest, as well as manage commercial operations.

The 4 Dig Deep farms in Alameda County are operated by professional staff who have developed a 6-week internship model to help various populations experiencing barriers to employment learn permaculture design and urban farming. Through its certified community commercial kitchen and distribution center, Dig Deep gathers fresh produce from each of the farms and recovers food from the community, and distributes to farm stands, low-income housing residents, and Food as Medicine “farmacies” throughout the county.

Dig Deep Farms was launched by the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League in 2011, adding to many programs that support the organization’s efforts to help make the neighborhoods in which they serve into places where people can thrive. In 2020, Kaiser Permanente awarded a $400,000 grant to DSAL to support their work to provide hands-on job experience to those who need it while also supporting food security in underserved communities. The funding enables Dig Deep Farms to increase staff and internship capacity, and provide local residents time in the commercial kitchen to build their small businesses.

Dig Deep Farms partnered with the Alameda County Family Justice Center to select women who could benefit from participating in the internship. The Dig Deep Farms interns chosen are survivors of intimate partner violence who have had a difficult time reentering the workforce and creating financial stability for themselves and their children.

“Our goal is to minimize trauma to victims of crime, helping them create a sense of independence and regain a sense of confidence,” explained Sabrina Farrell, assistant district attorney and executive director of the Family Justice Center.

One woman who participated in the internship program said, “The work is very nurturing, and I am proud to be a part of it.”

“Economic opportunity is a key part of our strategy to improve conditions for health and equity in communities that need it most,” said Cynthia Telles, PhD, Community Health Committee chair for the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals boards of directors. “We’re committed to inclusive economic growth, which is critical to both individual and community health.”

Our goal is to minimize trauma to victims of crime, helping them create a sense of independence and regain a sense of confidence.

This grant to support food security and economic opportunity is one of hundreds of grants totaling more than $100 million that Kaiser Permanente awarded to community-based organizations in 2020.

The 2020 grants included:

  • More than $38 million to help communities respond to housing insecurity and address homelessness
  • More than $18 million to support workforce development and job creation to bolster the economic vitality of the communities Kaiser Permanente serves
  • More than $13 million in support of schools to become a beacon of health in their community
  • More than $3 million to address racial inequities, and resolve and help stop the intergenerational cycles of trauma and adverse childhood experiences

“The grants that Kaiser Permanente awarded to community organizations in 2020 reflect our understanding that good health is based on more than health care,” said Stephanie Ledesma, interim senior vice president of community health programs for Kaiser Permanente. “Economic growth and opportunity provide people with jobs, income, and a chance to improve their economic circumstances over time.”

“Through the grant, Kaiser Permanente has contributed positively to the food economy and helped provide an opportunity to create significant economic impacts for reentry populations,” said Hilary Bass, crime prevention senior program specialist with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Grants to community-based organizations are part of the contributions Kaiser Permanente makes each year to improve community health. Kaiser Permanente also serves the community through a range of programs including Medicaid, charitable health coverage, medical financial assistance, and medical research. In 2020, Kaiser Permanente dedicated $3.6 billion to improve health and wellness in communities across the country.